Coding assessments evaluate candidates on on-the-job skills which helps companies make data driven decisions. It eliminates candidates who look good on paper but are not the right fit for that role, and also helps surfaces great developers who don't have good credentials attached to their name. This type of skills-based hiring implements consistent and objective standards, and helps companies find the best engineers.

However, assessment solutions or coding tests come in many different forms, and not every assessment would be right for every company. You need to figure out which solution would work best for your hiring needs. We wrote this quick guide to help, because we know that on the outside all solutions look just the same.

Does it give you relevant information?

This is probably the first and maybe only thing you want to optimize for when picking a coding test solution. If an assessment solution gives you the information you need to hire the right software engineers for your team, it will save you both time and money even if it is ridiculously expensive.

Are the questions of good quality?

This is the second most important thing and very heavily co-related with the first. The biggest problem with coding tests today is how focused the questions are on bookish algorithms that only a very tiny fraction of companies in the world would ever use. If the role demands a knowledge of algorithms, by all means pick questions that test candidates on that skill. The point is that if you’re using a particular question on a coding test for a role, you should be very deliberate about it.

Make sure the platform you're picking has a wide variety of coding questions ranging from real world scenarios that most software developers actually will encounter on the job all the way to very niche algorithms you need to know to optimize for efficiency in a distributed system with high throughput.

Some other things to keep in mind here:

  1. Are questions google-able? Can the candidate find the answers just by googling the title of the question and then copy-paste?
  2. Does the platform score candidates granularly for each question, as opposed to 0 or full marks?
  3. Does the platform give you the ability to adding own questions if you want to?

Do they help with setting up the assessments?

The most basic solution that companies provide are standardised tests. These should ideally come in a range of seniority/ difficulty levels. Some companies go a bit further and give access to a library of questions so you can setup tests according to your needs. And some companies go a step even further and create customized tests in accordance with the job description.

One important question you want to find an answer to: Can the company’s tests be customized to assess the multiple requirements of a job? For e.g. if you're looking for a full-stack engineer with experience in React, JavaScript, Node, HTML and CSS, is it possible to assess for these skills with one assessment, or would you have to ask the candidate attempt multiple assessments (hint: candidates will drop-off if you ask them to invest too much time in the screening process).

Does the platform cover all the technical skills you might need to test candidates for?

Even though you might be hiring for just a couple of roles right now, you might need to hire for other similar roles very soon. And you probably don't want to be using a new solution every time. When evaluating different coding test platforms, check if they cover all skills you might need to assess candidates for: all programming languages (Python/ Java/ JavaScript etc), frameworks (React/ Vue/ Node/ Spring/ Hibernate/ Selenium etc), devops (AWS/ Azure/ Google Cloud etc) and other skills like data science, aptitude etc.

Is this a solution that is accepted by the broader developer community (candidates)?

You want to look at the testimonials given by the companies using a particular solution, but more importantly you want to understand how candidates feel about that solution. Because if candidates don't like it, they won't give the test. There's a fair amount of hatred in the developer community for a few of the platforms because of the focus on algorithm based trick questions. The industry standard test taking rate is ~50%, ask the platform you are planning on choosing what their test taking rates are.

Does it have all of the features you might need?

Some of the features you might want to check for would be:

  1. Does this platform integrate with my ATS?
  2. Does it provide advanced proctoring features to make sure that candidates are not using unfair means to complete.

Does the platform have a pricing plan that would work for you, and does it scale well?

Most companies provide the assessment solution in a SaaS model. There are multiple tiers based on number of candidates you want to assess. Some companies charge a monthly subscription and some companies offer a pay-as-you-go option. Most companies have an enterprise version as well for annual contract and premium features.

Is this solution enterprise ready?

Depending on the size of the companies some of the other features you might require would be:

  • Custom branding
  • White-labelling
  • Advanced reporting and analytics